Everybody hates cables, let’s face it. They look messy, they get tangled up, it’s hard to clean around them, and you always end up with boxes full of spares that you might use one day but probably never will. Anyone who has recently moved office will attest to the vast number of unused network, power and monitor cables that have lain unused and unloved in that cupboard of spare parts that you end up leaving behind or disposing of – sustainably of course.
While we’re not quite there with powering our equipment wirelessly, we all know we can communicate wirelessly. So why do we still use cables?
We’re certainly not against setting up networks for wireless access, but there is still a place for cables, in particular for permanent or fixed devices like printers and servers which need to maintain a fixed address on a network so that they can be reliably accessed. This is just as possible on a well managed wireless network as a cabled one, but the difference is the practical difficulty of troubleshooting a connection if you can’t see it, should that printer go offline. It’s easier to see that a cable is connected, and therefore not the problem, but less so for wireless.
Network speed is another important factor. A well cabled network will have local speeds of 1000Mbps which is important if you are accessing resources on that network, like a database or files on a server. It’s less of an issue if you are accessing data online, as the internet connection speed will almost certainly only be a fraction of that local area network speed. Here’s where wireless working can start to be a realistic prospect.
There are a few more things to consider though. The first is the wireless coverage. If you have a medium sized open plan office of about 15-25 people, a couple or three good access points at either end of the office high on the wall will probably be enough. What’s good? Well, not your typical home hub, but something with a bit more oomph. Positioning is also important. Wireless access points do not send their signal out in a neat sphere, but are usually a variant of a cone shape, so if you have one in the middle of the office you won’t necessarily get a nice even ring of signal all around it.
What about guest access? Most small offices are happy enough to give out the wireless key to all their staff and everyone who comes in for a meeting so they can connect personal devices – laptops and phones – to the internet. Fine, up to a point. It’s worth noting though that unless you have good security on that wireless access, every device that connects to it might also have access to your server and printers, let alone every other device connected to it as well, including all those belonging to your guests. Segregated internet-only guest access is very important for your network security, and a captive portal advertising your terms and conditions of use is vital if you’re providing anything like public wireless access. You should also remember that bandwidth is not unlimited. If all your staff come in on Monday with 500 new photos on their phone from a banging weekend set to upload only when connected to wireless (to save their own data allowance, of course) you may find your internet access grinds to a halt as gigabytes of data is synced from personal devices on your company network. You would be surprised how big an impact that can have (and always when you’ve got that big presentation to research for).
Wireless networking is a must these days, but it’s not as easy as just removing all the cables. There’s a lot to consider. A badly planned wireless network can be a terrible thing; insecure, slow, and with patchy coverage. A well planned network can be fast, reliable, neat, and secure. What you need is an IT company that has experience in managing networks, provisioning secure internet access, and managing and monitoring the infrastruture in real time to spot those gaps in coverage, keep it secure, tackle rogue bandwidth usage, and ensure that your business needs are adequately met. And perhaps, just maybe, get rid of some of those spare cables in a sustainable way.